If you have a solid fuel fire, you're going to need to have something to burn on it. Coal comes in good sized, burnable lumps and wood can be bought in handy, 'throw it on the fire' style chunks. Or you can buy/ be given/ go to a wood and find great big hunks of log which need to be sawed and split to a convenient size.
This is where the hand axe comes in.

A hand axe is a small axe approximately a foot long. It's quite light, but you can apply a lot of force with one if you heft it from a height and put some power behind it.

The premise for chopping up wood that I was taught went thus:

  1. Place log to be split on chopping block with the line of the grain running parallel with you (so when the axe hits the wood, the force will be directed along the grain).
  2. With legs placed slightly apart, about the width of your shoulders, raise axe high above your head.
  3. Bring axe down quite hard, aiming to hit the wood squarely along the grain*.
  4. If the wood doesn't split immediately, (and for me it rarely does) repeat steps 2 and 3.

The axe may be so firmly embedded in the wood that you raise the wood along with the axe. Don't worry, just raise them both and repeat the action. The force of the wood and axe hitting the chopping block should cause the wood to split.

It should also be noted** that during the activity of chopping wood small chips may fly off in unpredictable directions. It's also a good idea to move anything that may get damaged away from the area (including people!). My mate left his toolbox a little too near the chopping block, and paid the price when I accidentally put the axe through it. ;o)

Though this is quite hard work and can be quite tedious if having to be done out of necessity, it is also a way of working off aggression and nervous energy. I would recommend wood chopping to anyone who has just suffered some sort of emotional trauma as it has surprisingly therapeutic effects. (At least for me)

*This can be accompanied by grunts, screams or yells if you feel so inclined, though you may scare your neighbours.

**Thanks Oolong for this safety orientated tip.

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